My father would have been 86 today. Sometimes I wish that I could magic him back to life, if only for a day, but I also know that within ten minutes he'd be telling me an anecdote about his scouting holidays and not listening to what I was saying.
If I asked him what the afterlife was like, he'd probably tell me about a chap he'd met who knew Lofty Woods, who was stationed at the same RAF base as Bill Kent and suddenly we'd be back to the frustrating conversations we had when, as a teenager, I tried to get my father to talk about his feelings.
But my father came from a different age, when talking about emotions was regarded as effeminate or weak. You just put the lid on and got on with things. Perhaps this attitude became more widespread during and after the First World War, when the phrase 'unspeakable horror' became more than a figure of speech.
His parents were both working class and when my father left school at 14, he seemed destined to spend the rest of his life in a factory. But then the War came and with it, National Service. My father joined the RAF and spent two years working as an electrician, servicing and repairing Lancaster bombers.
After he was demobbed, everybody expected my father to return to his old job in the local factory, but he had other ideas. Instead, he went to night school and studied for the Civil Service Entrance Exam.
He passed the exam and joined the National Savings Bank as a clerical assistant. It was a poorly-paid job, but my father regarded it as a step up the social ladder and during the 1950s, he sought to acquire the trappings of a gentleman. Sometimes he didn't get it quite right:
I remember cringing with embarrassment as a child when my father appeared in ordinary social situations wearing a bow tie. Other children's dads dressed casually and drove modern cars. My father drove a 1960s Morris Oxford and wouldn't be seen dead without a tie. He even shaved twice a day.
With four decades between us, many people assumed that he was my grandfather. His 1930s childhood was very different from mine.
As part of his social ascent, my father joined the Young Conservatives and remained a diehard Tory for the rest of his life. Sometimes he felt that they were a little too left-wing and was very relieved when Margaret Thatcher got into power.
During my teens I had a very difficult relationship with my father and every meal turned into a blazing row. We disagreed about everything. Politically I regarded myself as fairly moderate, but in my father's eyes I was a militant socialist. When I started listening to classical music my father was delighted, but the moment I started to play "that flippin' modern rubbish" we clashed.
In hindsight, he was a man in his mid-50s who was frustrated by so many things, not least his job. After years of drudgery his career was really taking off and he had been offered one of the higher posts in the Civil Service, but was losing his sight. It had been a gradual process and both my mother and I had grown used to telling him what colour the traffic lights were when he drove, not facing the reality of his blindness. When my father agreed to take early retirement, it must have been a very difficult decision to make.
I was a classic example of "Be careful what you wish for". My father wanted a middle class child, but made the mistake of thinking that it would result in a Hay Wain-loving, Conservative-voting clone. Instead, he had an intolerant, opinionated prig who ridiculed his views.
Luckily we both grew up and when we stopped feeling threatened by each other, we rediscovered the love that had always been there. I learned to see my father in the context of his background and realised what a remarkable journey he'd made.
I can't speak for my father, but I hope he saw that I possessed the same sense of moral conviction that drove him. We may have ended up holding opposing views, but we held them for the right reasons and both despised people who were motivated by self-aggrandisement.
As I grew older, I learned to appreciate the best things about my father. The flip side of his bigotry was a moral courage and sense of conviction that didn't waver under pressure. His love was never conditional and he was incredibly loyal to people.
The bigotry was frustrating, but if I bought home friends who didn't conform to my father's ideas of normality, he still was unfailingly polite. I remember him cornering one friend, who was black and dressed in outrageously foppish clothes, trying to convince him to join the Civil Service.
Today, I judge my father by his actions, not his views. He could be maddening to talk to, but in spite of everything he said, he was one of the kindest people I've known. When he died, I asked people to send donations to Sightsavers rather than waste their money on flowers. In less than two weeks, we had raised enough money for over 50 cataract operations. The funeral was packed.
My father almost died in 1994. His last eleven years were spent living a diminished life, limited to short journeys that made him feel terrible. But when my oldest son was born, he found a new reason to live.
As I descend deeper into fatherhood and hear myself uttering the same banal cliches that my father did, tutting at the vacuous children's television presenters and complaining about declining standards, I feel a growing sense of humility.
I am my father, but possibly not as good.